I re-watched my 4K UHD Apocalypse Now Bluray last night, and I wasn’t totally happy. I saw this 1979 classic at the Ziegfeld theatre two or three times in August and September of ’79, and the big-screen presentation (we’re thinking back almost 44 years) blows the 4K disc away. Aurally and visually, but especially in terms of sharp, punctuating fullness of sound.

Apocalypse Now was presented at the Ziegfeld within a 2:1 aspect ratio, which Vittorio Storaro insisted upon through thick and thin. The 4K disc uses what looked to me with a standard Scope a.r. of 2.39:1.

And the general sharpness of the image on that big Ziegfeld screen just isn’t replicated by the 4K. It looks “good”, of course, but not as good as it should.

As we begin to listen to The Doors’ “The End” while staring at that tropical tree line, John Densmore’s high hat could be heard loudly and crisply from a Ziegfeld side speaker. Before that moment I had never heard any high-hat sound so clean and precise. But it doesn’t sound nearly as pronounced on the 4K disc, which I listened to, by the way, with a pricey SONOS external speaker.

Remember that “here’s your mission, Captain” scene with G.D. Spradlin, Harrison Ford and that white-haired guy? When that scene abruptly ends, we’re suddenly flooded with electronic synth organ music…it just fills your soul and your chest cavity. Filled, I should say, 44 years ago. But not that much with the disc.

When Martin Sheen and the PBR guys first spot Robert Duvall and the Air Cav engaged in a surfside battle, Sheen twice says “arclight.” In the Ziegfeld the bass woofer began rumbling so hard and bad that the floor and walls began to vibrate like bombs were exploding on 54th Street…the hum in my rib cage was mesmerizing. Not so much when you’re watching the 4K.

As Duvall’s gunship helicopters take off for the attack on a Vietnamese village (“Vin Din Lop…all these gook names sound the same”), an Army bugler begins playing the cavalry charge. It was clear as a bell in the Ziegfeld — less so last night.

Right Theatre, Right Moment,” posted on 2.24.19:

When you think of the most exciting, triple-wowser screenings of your life, it’s always a combination of (a) a knockout film, (b) a great crowd and (c) the film playing at a big-city, big-screen, technically tip-top theatre.

One of the greatest of my life was catching an early-afternoon, opening-day (11.16.77) screening of Close Encounters of the Third Kind at the Zeigfeld. Another was an opening weekend showing of Back to the Future (7.3.85) at the Cinerama Dome with that “Power of Love” rhythm guitar vibrating out of the Dolby speakers.

But the best was catching The French Connection at Leows 86th Street on opening weekend (10.9.71). The rave reviews had popped that morning, the crowd was roused and ready, and when Don Ellis‘s brassy, heavy-hammer music started playing…wow.

Leows’ 86th Street East Cinema was born in ’65. By 1968, it was day-and-dating with Loew’s Capitol Theatre on first-run films. The seating capacity as a single screen was around 600 to 800 seats. It was twinned in the early ’80s, and then quadded in May ’99. It’s currently operated by City Cinemas.

One of Few ‘CE3K’ Scenes That Isn’t Manipulative or Touched by Cloying Sentiment,” posted on 4.8.15:

“Yesterday’s distressing news about the possible demise of Manhattan’s Ziegfeld theatre took me back to my first exceptional experience at that theatre, and particularly with the astonishing sound that came out of those sub-woofers at the very beginning of Close Encounters, which I caught at an afternoon screening of on the opening day — 11.16.77.

“I’m not writing this to dump once again on CE3K, which I did in this space about seven and a half years ago. I’m just saying this air-traffic controller scene is one of the very few scenes in the film that doesn’t feel flim-flammed or Spielberg-ized, and which will always play well because it’s straight and plain and hasn’t been manipulated for emotional effect.”